Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Short Film: Samurai 7

Director Akira Kurosawa's  Seven Samurai (1954) may well be the single most reworked films in cinema.  At the time of its release, it was a technical marvel, but what sets it apart is that, despite a run-time of over three hours, the film's story remains engrossing til the last frame.  The action scenes are thrilling, the characters are so well developed that their death ignite genuine grief, and the cinematography marked a turning point in how action movies are shot.

"Samurai 7" traditionally makes most best film lists, and since its release, it's been remade, rehashed, and "homaged" frequently.  Most notably, The Magnificent Seven was an excellent remake of Seven Samurai released in 1960 that recast the movie as a Western.  Other popular titles, from The Guns of Navarro to the Bollywood blockbuster Sholay and even Pixar's animated A Bug’s Life have all drawn openly and heavily from Samurai 7.

My favorite take on the story, though, has to be Toshifumi Takizawa's twenty-six episode anime Samurai 7.  The anime more or less keeps the story but draws the story out to three times the length of Kurosawa's original and dresses it up in the hyperbole of anime conventions. 

The show’s opening scene, for instance, features a massive interstellar battle involving lasers and spaceships. There’s a rusting, elephantine megalopolis that could have been torn right out of a cyberpunk epic.  Also, as in any good anime, there are robots.  The bandits are cyborgs, while Kikuchiyo, who was played brilliantly as a drunken wild man by Toshiro Mifune, is portrayed as a broken down cyborg who wields a massive chainsaw-sword hybrid.

If you're an anime fan, the series is a must-see.  You can watch episode one above and catch the rest on Youtube.  Compare them to the trailer for Kurosawa's original below if you haven't been lucky enough to see it in full.

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